“Insufficient facts always invite danger.” — Dr Spock
We encounter a lot of teachable moments in our day, but not every teachable moment is a moment to teach.
Here’s a good example. The other night I was working an ambulance shift and we had a call at three in the morning. A 17-year-old kid overdosed on Benadryl.
He was not trying to hurt himself. He was trying to get high, which apparently is a thing that kids do these days.
The parents were oddly calm about it, which is always an indicator. If the family’s not freaked out about something that seems like something they would freak out about, then it’s probably happened before. It turns out it had. But that is not the time, when the kid is catatonic, to mention it to the parents. That’s not the time to tell a parent, maybe you should get him some help or maybe don’t have Benadryl in the house.
Sometimes, it’s not appropriate to get on a high horse. (Please excuse the terrible pun. There is no other phrase that expresses what I mean here).
There are also times when it’s not appropriate for different reasons. Somebody emailed me a week ago. It was a great cold email. He was putting together a website where experts recommend their top five books in a specific category. So the concept was really cool and even though it was a cold email, he specifically listed examples that were productivity-related.
The pitch was obviously templated but adjusted to appeal to me, which I thought was great. So I responded, “Sure, happy to do it.” He wrote back, “Thank you so much. Here is an editable word template, please fill it out and send it back to me”
And if you know me, like I know you know me, I immediately thought, “Red Flag”. His request was an extremely inefficient one. I can’t download a word document on my phone. I mean, I could, but I don’t do that kind of thing on my phone. So it’d be a pain filling out the template, then reattaching it to the email. I know that I’m making it sound more laborious than it is, but it is for someone like me.
Are you thinking, “Ari would say use a Jotform?” You’d be right. Not only does it make it easier for the person you’re trying to get information from, but it delivers more structured data. Using a Word doc that needs to be cut and pasted is absurd, even if he’s outsourcing that really crappy work to a VA.
It reminds me of the phrase ‘Prime Directive” which is something that anybody who was a Star Trek fan will know. If you don’t, you’re not a nerd.
Okay, I’ll tell you non-nerds. The prime directive was a galaxy-wide standard that stated if they encountered a civilization that had not reached a sufficient level of technological expertise they could not interfere with that civilization. If they were able to see your technological levels, it would disrupt their natural course of things and cause chaos of all sorts.
So I feel that way, a lot of times with businesses, I talk to people all the time who are starting out and they’re doing things the wrong way. It’s how I felt with this guy. It would have been really easy for me to write back and be like, Hey, you know, you really should do this with a form and you know that, but I don’t have a relationship with this person. It would be very difficult for me to respond to this person without it seeming condescending or rude. So I’m not going to do it. I got a templated email from him again, which said, “I haven’t heard back. I want to see if you’re still interested.”
I wrote back and I said, I’m not interested. If he writes back and asks me why I’ll tell him if he doesn’t, that’s it that’s the end of that interaction.
So it’s not pretense, it’s just that if somebody is not ready to receive the teaching, then you actually can do damage by providing it. At least that’s what Dr Spock said. And he’s always right.